Parking tickets waived by caring inspectors mindful of drought-hit community’s coffers
The West Wyalong parking officer prefers to give out warnings rather than parking fines. (ABC Central West: Donal Sheil)
When you overstay your welcome in a parking space, the sight of a slip of paper on your car windscreen is enough to fill most drivers with dread, make them break out in a cold sweat or curse.
But imagine if that slip of paper is just a reminder not to exceed the parking limit?
This gentle approach is the policy of the Bland Shire Council, based at West Wyalong in western New South Wales.
The parking inspector does not issue fines and instead leaves a reminder from the council’s general manager, Ray Smith.
“Being a small rural town, it’s difficult with our own ranger going around, imposing parking fines and everybody knows everybody,” Mr Smith said.
“In particular, at the moment, we’re going through a really tough drought and the atmosphere in town needs a little uplifting, and we certainly don’t want to be the big bogey man that’s going around imposing this type of fine when it’s not necessary.”
Local shop owner and chairperson of Business West Wyalong, Jill Furnell, said the “casual” approach had created problems, with people sometimes leaving their cars all day in two-hour parking spaces or loading zones.
“I think it raises the awareness of it and probably appeals to people’s better judgement and thoughtfulness,” Ms Furnell said.
“There have been a number of complaints about a car being parked in front of a business house or somewhere for a period of time.”
Ms Furnell said there had been times when people staying in nearby hotels or pubs have parked outside her shop all day, sometimes deterring customers.
Councils given option to lower penalties
The New South Wales Government has offered all of the state’s councils the option to reduce their parking fines from $112 to $80.
The Bland Shire Council has submitted its application but it still does not have any plans to issue fines.
“We’d be imposing fines on repeat offenders,” Mr Smith said.
“We like to think that most people in West Wyalong are fair-minded people.
“We appreciate during summer undercover parking is at a premium, but as long as everyone abides by that two-hour [limit] or thereabouts, we have no real concerns.”
The deadline to opt in for the State Government’s concession was January 1, 2019 but the majority of councils had not applied.
“Overwhelmingly I’ve heard from mayors and councillors that it’s not the right decision for their communities to reduce their parking fines,” Local Government New South Wales President Linda Scott said.
“They fear it may lead to increased congestion or increased non-compliance, which is not for the public good.”